CHAMPAIGN — All season long, the Morris Redskins football team has thrived on the big play, be it the long run, a timely turnover or a huge special teams play.
Unfortunately for Morris, the Redskins found themselves on the wrong side of those exciting, momentum-creating snaps in a 19-6 loss to Montini Catholic for the Class 5A state title on Saturday morning. The few big plays they had of their own, they failed to capitalize on, and ultimately Montini would capture their fourth straight state championship.
The Redskins got things started in a big way, as they came out in the I-formation and, on the third play from scrimmage, Reese Sobol got to the edge and creased the defense for a 45-yard gain that moved them comfortably into Montini, before eventually moving down to the Montini 26. But that would be as far as Morris would advance until a fourth-quarter drive into the red zone.
A bobbled snap would stall out Morris’ shot to come away with points, and Montini took over on downs where they struck it rich via halfback Dimitri Taylor. Taylor took the handoff on the opening play from scrimmage for the Broncos and bolted 74 yards, leaving multiple defenders grasping for nothing in his wake.
“For us to actually get the lead early was huge for us,” Montini head coach Chris Andriano said after trailing early in each of their first four playoff games. “That big run early by D.T. (Dimitri Taylor) was really a sight for sore eyes, and it really got our guys fired up.”
Morris was able to survive that early momentum, and despite battling field position, the Redskins really buckled down defensively. However, Taylor struck again at the end of the second half, this time on a 48-yard touchdown catch over the middle. The score gave Montini an inevitably insurmountable 13-0 lead. Taylor pretty much single-handedly ran through a stingy Morris defense in that first half, piling up 151 yards from scrimmage with a pair of scores on just eight touches before the break.
“They’re a big-play team,” Morris captain and senior linebacker Nic Countryman said. “It doesn’t seem like they were driving the ball on us very well. It seemed like they always have these big plays that go for long yardage, so we had to try to limit that down, but they just had more of those big plays today.”
Coming out of the half, Morris got one more shot at one of those momentum changing plays when senior defensive end Danny Friend sniffed out a Montini rocket screen and jumped the route for what would have been a surefire pick-six. Unfortunately Friend couldn’t quite get a grasp and the ball fell rather harmlessly to the turf.
“It was right in my hands and I just couldn’t get it in,” Friend said.
From there Montini was able to tack on a couple of field goals to put the lead out of reach, but it was the two big plays by Taylor in the first half and the near interception that stood out in a game where chunk yardage was hard to come by. For one of the first times all year, Morris found itself on the wrong end of all three big plays.